The Dallas Cowboys are keeping Doug Free off the open market, having signed their starting right tackle to a three-year, $15 million deal, according to a source. He gets $6 million guaranteed, with a salary-cap number of $3 million for 2015.
Free, 31, was set to become a free agent, having played out a renegotiated two-year, $7 million deal. His return means the Cowboys’ starting offensive line returns intact, with Free, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Ron Leary and Tyron Smith.
Right tackle had been the only question mark going into the off-season, with Free and his backup, Jermey Parnell, scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Parnell likely leaves now, seeking a job as a starter elsewhere.
Parnell started seven games last season in place of Free, who had foot and ankle injuries that sidelined him. Free needed off-season surgery on his left ankle.
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Free has started 82 games since making his first in 2009. He started all 16 games from 2010-2013.
With Free returning, the Cowboys no longer have right tackle as a position of need in free agency or the draft. Last month, they re-signed starting left guard Leary and backup tackle Darrion Weems to one-year, $585,000 deals as exclusive-rights free agents.
The Cowboys, who also have signed third receiver Cole Beasley to a new deal, still have 18 free agents. That includes starting running back DeMarco Murray.
A three-day negotiating window opened Saturday for free agents to begin shopping before free agency starts Tuesday at 3 p.m.
The Cowboys maintain hopes of retaining Murray after he tests the market. Murray led the league in rushing by 484 yards, winning the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award.
Free agent targets
The Cowboys have interest in several free agents, if their price is right. They like Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea and Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn, among others.
However, with 17 unrestricted free agents, the Cowboys’ priority remains retaining their own, a source reiterated Saturday.
They signed Free, but Murray, linebacker Rolando McClain, linebacker Justin Durant, cornerback Sterling Moore, defensive tackle Nick Hayden, defensive end George Selvie and receiver Dwayne Harris are among the team’s free agents free to shop their services.
The Cowboys obviously need replacements for the players they lose. While none of the big names in free agency show up on the Cowboys’ radar, they hope to find some bargains.
Paea played for Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli in Chicago. He has 40 starts in four seasons, including all 16 games last season, with six of his 12 career sacks coming in 2014.
Clayborn, the 20th overall pick in 2011, has played only 20 games the past three seasons combined. He missed 13 games in 2012 with a knee injury and 15 games in 2014 with a torn biceps.
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760